As the Bush Administration revolving door winds up, Air Force Secretary James G. Roche announced he was leaving his post. But, was he just resigning? Or running scared from brewing conflict of interest investigations?
Roche may become the latest casualty of Senator John McCain’s diligent digging into the Boeing tanker leasing deal. According to emails obtained by McCain, the White House made a miraculous turn-around on supporting the tanker deal within days of a back-scratching favor by Roche. Roche endorsed the brother of Robin Cleveland, an Office of Management and Budget official who appeared to shepherd the White House endorsement, for a job at former employer Northrop Grumman. CongressDaily reports: “After forwarding the information to Northrop Grumman and offering his endorsement, Roche wrote to Cleveland: ‘Be well. Smile. Give me tankers now.’ In a subsequent sentence, he qualified the statement as a joke.” That was May 11, 2003. After a meeting between Cleveland and Boeing and more chatty emails, the White House endorsed the deal on May 23. In the Washington Post, Air Force spokesman William Nichols responds to the hubub: “Doctor Roche is confident that the IG [Inspector General] will find nothing criminal or unethical in the course of their investigation.”
It is difficult to imagine under any circumstances how it would be appropriate for Roche to broker jobs at Northrop Grumman, particularly for higher-up government officials, given that he is in charge of $5 billion in contracts for the company.
Such is the state of affairs in stone-deaf, blind, and numb Washington, DC where Air Force hacks can spin control to their heart’s content. Few seem truly outraged about the revolving door between the government and its contractors. When POGO complained about Air Force buyer Darleen Druyun’s departure for Boeing, the yawns were deafening. Now she and cohorts face jail.